Brett Anderson’s return gets closer and closer for A’s

It’s a beautiful afternoon at the Coliseum as the A’s and Rays finish off a three-game series. Does this feel like a big game to you for the A’s? It does to me. They haven’t played their best baseball over the past three days, even in Monday’s walkoff victory. A win today gives them another series victory and keeps some momentum rolling as the Blue Jays arrive Thursday for a four-game series.

–Brett Anderson gave an update on his status today. He was happy with his four-inning stint in Reno yesterday for Triple-A Sacramento, and was especially encouraged that his breaking ball command was better. After he didn’t record a strikeout in his first rehab outing against Salt Lake, Anderson’s Sacramento teammates presented him with a baseball as a gag Tuesday, commemorating the first strikeout he notched against Reno. “Brett’s first K since June 5 (2011), 422 days,” it read. Anderson got a kick out of it, but he was genuinely happy with how his stuff felt, and that tells him he’s close to being ready for the bigs. The lefty estimated one or two more minor league starts will have him ready. And then what happens?

“I keep joking around that I don’t know what’s gonna happen, there’s so many guys here that are pitching well in front of me,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens there, especially with (Brandon) McCarthy coming back too. It’s kind of an embarrassment of riches. We’re gonna piggy-back and go three innings apiece or something.” Anderson added that he thinks a six-man rotation could make sense, given the A’s starting depth and the injury histories in the rotation.

One last bit on Anderson: You might have seen him tweet a picture of him and comedian Bill Murray. That was taken in Salt Lake. Murray used to be part-owner of the Salt Lake Trappers minor league team back in the late 1980s, and he was back in town for a game. Murray took batting practice, and Anderson was one of several players to snap pictures with him. “He’s an awesome guy, he knows baseball,” Anderson said. “He didn’t take a very good B.P. He hit a couple out of the infield, but he didn’t barrel many up.”

–In other rotation news, McCarthy is scheduled for a bullpen session Thursday and his second rehab start with Sacramento will come Saturday. Dallas Braden, who hurt his groin last week right before he was set to face hitters, was scheduled to play catch before Wednesday’s game.

Shortstop Cliff Pennington might start a rehab assignment Friday if he continues progressing from an elbow injury. Coco Crisp also is coming along well but is out of the lineup for the fourth straight game.

Speaking of lineups:
A’s — Weeks 2B, Smith LF, Reddick RF, Cespedes CF, Carter DH, Moss 1B, Inge 3B, Suzuki C, Sogard SS; Parker RHP.

Rays — Jennings LF, Upton CF, Zobrist 2B, Joyce RF, Keppinger DH, Pena 1B, Roberts 3B, Molina C, Johnson SS; Cobb RHP.

Joe Stiglich